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Cancer’s not a fad

Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 in rant

Breast cancer buffalo

Enough with the pink already. I’m glad to know that everyone is concerned about my boobs, but really, they get plenty of attention already. They are very nice, still fairly perky, and collect a lot of dropped food. They don’t need you to wear pink shoes on the football field to show your support.

Pink was already a problematic color before cancer claimed it. It was Barbie’s color. That was enough association with breasts. And it was the color of Pepto-Bismol. So it was sort of the big boob, feminine, upset stomach color.

I’m ready for all this cancer pink mania to stop.  It’s becoming counterproductive. I’m more than a year behind in getting my mammogram and seeing a breast cancer buffalo doesn’t really encourage me to make that appointment. In fact I’m now afraid that I’ll enter a waiting room full of women and men all in pink, all chanting some cancer slogan, trying to get me to buy pink legal pads, pink jewelry, pink floor mats, and pink whole wheat bread. I don’t know when I’ll make my appointment.

I do have an appointment to check my cervix for cancer for the fourth time, but I haven’t see any products for cervical cancer. I guess I can show up for the colposcopy wearing whatever I like. No one cares. The market only cares about my secondary sexual characteristics, not my primary ones. And that’s OK by me. I’d like to keep my cervix, uterus, and ovaries to myself. They’re mine and I’ll take responsibility for them.

If you want to do something for a woman with breast cancer, how about you take care of her kids while she’s going in for treatment, or drive her there and back? Or make a donation for research on something like adrenal cancer which has a poorer prognosis and less research wealth.

Every time I see a breast cancer commercial or a product being marketed with pink breast cancer ribbons, I think of Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Welcome to CancerLand” article in Harper’s Magazine. I particularly liked her observation that “men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not receive gifts of Matchbox cars.” A Google search for “testicular cancer products” only returns 312,000 results and most of those are for t-shirts and bracelets.

Google has 25,600,000 listings for “breast cancer products.” From a site devoted to all popular cancers, I now know that cervical cancer’s color is teal (which is nice because if I do get this cancer I’ve always liked teal and wouldn’t turn down a teal mug or t-shirt). I also discovered that testicular cancer’s color is orchid, which is pretty close to lavender so I sort of wonder how some marketing firm selected these colors. And I should probably tell my friends who love wearing black that they are supporting melanoma awareness. Although not all cancer product marketing sites agree on color. Testicular cancer’s color wars might be won by goldenrod.

I’m certain that in the 2050’s people will look back on this decade and cancer pink will be one of the identifying characteristics. Like pet rocks were of the 1970s. Let’s not treat cancer like a fad.

  1. Excellent piece. I’ve always felt strangely offended by all the pink shit, but felt it was hugely un-PC to say anything. You have expressed my doubts perfectly and offered some excellent reasons for my sense of dis-ease with the whole campaign. It’s true that this kind of thing has done a lot to encourage women to get tested for BC and that’s all to the good, but I really don’t understand all this color coding.One of the women here in the office actually gave me a little aqua (I think) ribbon pin for ovarian cancer awareness.
    In the meantime, girl, go get the damned mammogram. It takes 10 minutes.

  2. The wait and pre-exam paperwork can take more than 10 minutes. Peggy must have her mammograms delivered. Ha, wouldn’t that be a hoot. We’ve got a flu shot clinic coming to our office next week. How about a traveling mammogram clinc next? I think they do have vans for that. Simon delivers mammograms.

    Watched the Vikings-Packer game last night. The first guy I saw wearing pink shoes I thought he was coming out. After I saw that the majority of players sported some hint of pink I realized it was breast cancer. I think the Greenbay ball caps look nicer with a pink brim. Good to know we can “sell” cancer.

  3. Great post! I agree with Peggy that raising awareness among women who might not otherwise get regular mammograms is wonderful, but to take a big pink brush to such a serious issue seems weirdly infantalizing. As if grown women are really just babies who can only pay attention when something pink and shiny is waved in their faces.

  4. Don’t forget that it’s a huge marketing scheme, too. Almost everyone knows a woman or one of her family members affected by breast cancer – that’s quite a market for pink be-ribboned yogurt and such. There has been an extraordinary amount of money raised for breast cancer research, though. It would be interesting to see some figures on how it has actually helped move the research along and whether that research has had any kind of spill-over effect on other cancer research.

    I’ve never been fond of pink, either – especially as a color to define femininity. It’s just so stereo-typed. Why not a good, bold, red? Or aubergine? Or some obnoxious, in-your-face (yet stylish and flattering) shade of chartreuse?

    Thanks for the little plug for adrenal cancer research, Xteen.

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